Speaking at Comms Malaysia 2015 on The Future of Communications

CommsMalaysia_2015-40Photo credit: Advertising + Marketing

I was very honored to be invited to join a great panel of speakers at the recent Comms Malaysia 2015 event, organized by Advertising + Marketing, a publication of Lighthouse Independent Media.

Comms Malaysia Speakers

I spoke on the topic, “Looking to what’s next: The Future Of Communications.” In my presentation, I made the case that the marketing and communications landscape is being completely disrupted by many forces, including: the globalized & hyper-connected world we live in today; Big Data and the Internet of Everything; Social media; an ever-changing and ever-fragmenting media landscape; ubiquitous connectivity, and changing interfaces.

Drawing on case studies and examples from both Microsoft and Shell, I then outlined four capabilies marketers and communicators could build on to prepare themselves for the future of communications:

  1. Embracing & co-creating with your community
  2. Telling authentic stories
  3. Integrating across media
  4. Building on our owned media platforms

Here are the slides from my presentation. I hope you enjoy them and look forward to engaging with you on it.

There were two videos embedded in my presentation, which can be viewed via YouTube here:

  • #makethefuture Morro da Mineira Project:

  • Microsoft Bing – Decode Jay-Z Case Study:

2nd Annual Digital Marketing & Advertising Asia (DIGMA) 2014 – What’s Next: 5 Capabilities For Marketing & Communications In The Next Digital Decade

DIGMA 2014

I was invited to speak at the 2nd Annual Digital Marketing & Advertising Asia (DIGMA) 2014 today. DIGMA 2014 is a trade show that recognizes the huge potential of digital marketing and advertising opportunities in the Asian region. Digitally based initiatives are expected to make up 20 percent of the global advertising market by 2014, with the Asia Pacific region, in particular, already reaching $27.3 billion in digital advertising spend in 2012 alone. The trade show was officially launched by the Malaysian Deputy Minister of Domestic Trade, Co-operatives & Consumerism Malaysia, YB Senator Dato’ Seri Ahmad Bashah Bin Md Hanipah.

DIGMA 2014

I spoke on “What’s Next: 5 Capabilities For Marketing & Communications In The Next Digital Decade“, touching on what skill sets marketing and communications practitioners need have in a digital future:

  1. Be agile, nimble, 24×7, global
  2. Embrace your community
  3. Be authentic and transparent
  4. Integrate across media
  5. Build owned media platforms


I’ve uploaded my slides and embedded them below. Do let me know what you think – I’d love to have a conversation with you.


Infographic: Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic (2014)


Via the Chief Marketing Technologist Blog by Scott Brinker comes the latest iteration of his marketing technology landscape “supergraphic” (no mere infographic is this!) – and my god, what a blindingly painful thing to look at!

You can click for a high-res version here (2600×1950, 4.7MB) or for a high-resolution PDF version (14.3MB). A huge kudos and thanks to Scott for producing it as well as for making it free to copy, repost, distribute, and use this graphic “as is” in any context.

Scott has also blogged about it and there are several things that he pointed out that gave me reason to pause.

Firstly, while the supergraphic represents a whopping 947 different companies that provide software for marketers, organized into 43 categories across 6 major classes; this graphic is not comprehensive! According to Scott: “It is just a sample, albeit a large one, of the many different kinds of software available to marketers today. There are many more companies — indeed, entire categories — that were not included, merely due to the constraints of time and space. And by the time you read this, it will inevitably be out of date due to new launches, re-launches, expansions, exits, and mergers. The pace of change in this field is breathtaking.”

Secondly, I also liked how he was able to categorize these technologies into six classes of marketing technology AND posit them in what he called “a semblance of meaningful structure”. The six classes were:

  1. Internet services such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter that underlie today’s marketing environment.
  2. Infrastructure such as databases, big data management, cloud computing, and software development tools.
  3. Marketing Backbone Platforms such as CRM, marketing automation, WCM, and e-commerce engines.
  4. Marketing Middleware such as DMPs, CDPs, tag management, cloud connectors, user management, and API services.
  5. Marketing Experiences — more specialized technologies that directly affect prospects and customers across their lifecycle, such as advertising, email, social media, SEO, content marketing, A/B testing, marketing apps — the “front-office” of modern marketing.
  6. Marketing Operations — the tools and data for managing the “back-office” of marketing, such as analytics, MRM, DAM, and agile marketing management.


and they all fit together like this:


Scott goes on to blog in greater detail about the implications and takeaways that impact both technologists as well as marketers – which I do recommend you spend some time on.

However, here are my takeaways:

1) Marketers are also technologists. The growing interplay between marketing and technology can no longer be ignored. On one hand, much of marketing today (analysis, tracking, delivery) is heavily reliant on technology, while technology departments are starting to see their budgets being shared/controlled by marketing departments. If you haven’t wrapped your head around technology yet, you should start. We are way past TVCs, print ads and even traditional public relations here. Heck, we’re even past just having a website, leveraging Google/SEO/SEM and having a Facebook/Twitter presence! A good place to start would be to look into what some are calling “The 4 IT Megatrends“.

2) Marketing technology brings hyper-engagement. Scott also mentioned this in his blog and I heartily agree. There is a “seismic shift of marketing away from advertising to experience-driven marketing”. Through efforts such as content marketing, social media marketing, interactive experiences, along with the analytical capabilities, marketers have an unprecedented (and, I might add, an extremely challenging) opportunity to deliver a brand’s promise in a real, engaging way to a hyper-targeted audience. Imagine that.

3) Integration is important! Surprisingly (or am I just naïve?), marketing is sometimes still executed in a silo manner. Territorial fiefdoms sometimes exist among product/business owners, IT and marketing operations or they can even exist amongst marketers themselves – i.e. among advertising, digital/social media, PR/communications, etc. Hence, when it comes to the end-to-end strategic goals of marketing – from targeting and insight/analysis, to delivery/execution – a good marketers must have a keen strategic overview to ensure integration and alignment. With the proliferation of tools that are easy to access and designed for DIY, marketing integration and alignment has never been more important.

What Happens In An Internet Minute, The Internet Of Things, And What Marketers Must Do

I’ve highlighted this before, but today, I saw this featured again on my LinkedIn timeline in the format of a new infographic by Intel.


My favorite bit of Intel’s observation:

Today, the number of networked devices equals the world’s population. By 2015, the number of networked devices is expected to be double the world’s population. And by the time we reach 2015, it would take five years to view all the video content crossing IP networks each second.

Thinking about this and having grown up during the ascendancy of the internet, I continue to be marveled by how fundamentally the web and technology have revolutionized the way we live. Even as I follow the stories coming out of CES2014, one of the themes that have really called out to me has been “The Internet of Things” (IoT).

How then can marketers and communicators make the most of this? Well, I can think of a few:

  1. Data-driven insights – Today, there is so much data available to marketers along with the tools to access, understand and leverage this data into insights. Some of the conversation here lends itself to a larger discussion on Big Data, but the core assertion I’m making here is that marketing must be fueled by better insights – and sometimes, that comes more from slogging through data rather than pretty pictures.
  2. Dramatic disruption – With everything that happens in an internet minute, attention today is at a premium. We have more data and information – but we also have a lot more noise. To break through the clutter, one must truly be dramatic enough to warrant attention – in fact, I hearken back to my old hero, Seth Godin’s definition of “Remarkable” = Worth making a remark about. Is your brand, marketing proposition, story worth people making a remark about and be willing enough to share it with others? However, there is a flip side to this, which is my next point…
  3. Creative contextualization – Being dramatic is often misunderstood and has led to many a faux pas (which, today, one’s mistake is amplified many times over via social media). On the contrary, I do not subscribe to the maxim “any publicity is good publicity” (a lesson learned from having managed a few crises and issues in the past). What’s important thus is to ensure that your “dramatic disruption” is creatively contextualized to your audience – what they want, the way they’re thinking, what they may not know they need just yet… I’m a firm believe in audience-led marketing and believe that, given the data we have access to today, it would be extremely lazy not to figure out how to reach out to your audiences in a creatively contextual manner.
  4. Cultivated community – Finally, one of the best ways to consider how all this comes together is to consider how we might cultivate and embrace our community. The marketplace has and always will be about people – and people do gather into groups/tribes/communities. It’s our natural tendency. An astute marketer would be able to combine the data-driven insights to create and/or embrace an already established community and engage them with your brand, marketing proposition or story. It’s in this context that you can be dramatically disruptive in a way that is appreciated as creative and contextual. This has been made a lot easier on the internet, given the myriad social networks that we have and are a part of (*Cough* I’m on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook*Cough*).


Here’s to the internet. 😉

Audience-led Marketing, Always – 5 Questions To Get You There

EPSON scanner image

Recently, I was asked in an interview scenario: If given $100, how would I split the budget spend between traditional/print media versus digital media?

before I can even answer how I would split the budget spend, I must first determine what the objectives were and, perhaps more importantly, who the audience was. Only once you’ve figured those questions out can you then determine your media mix. Otherwise, there is no point determining beforehand whether you would leverage one media over another.

You must know your objective(s) – which I believe is ultimately influenced by your audience.

It reminded me of this Fast Company article, “5 Questions All Marketers Need To Ask Themselves” I just read.

I especially loved this:

Often, businesses market themselves without the prospect in mind. But successful marketers align all their marketing efforts with a prospect narrative. Creating a prospect narrative is an easy and powerful way to put yourself into your prospect’s shoes–and ultimately increase the effectiveness of your marketing.

The article then goes on to propose five questions marketers must ask themselves to help them better align with their audiences. I think they are great checkpoints to keep us grounded in perspectives of our audience:

  1. What is your customer doing during his day?
    Most organizations create their marketing materials without considering what the potential customer will be doing when he receives a marketing message. People are busier than they have ever been. In fact, they are spending over a quarter of their day just responding to emails. In order for your campaign to break through the clutter, you must consider how the person you are trying to reach is spending his time.
  2. What is keeping her up at night?
    Usually, a company centers the majority of its marketing efforts around the company itself or the features and benefits of a specific product. However, no one cares about your company. All they care about are the issues they are dealing with right then and there. What are the challenges that your potential user takes home with her each night? If you want your marketing to elicit a particular behavior, then spend some time matching your message to the challenges your audience cares most about.
  3. What will catch his attention?
    Most organizations are so focused on broadcasting how great they are that they don’t think about what will most effectively catch people’s attention. Most commercials, for example, are generic and not memorable, so in order for yours to stand out, you need to develop a message that is so appealing or jarring to your audience that he has no choice but to react to it.
  4. What action will she most likely take?
    So many marketing campaigns are solely focused on increasing awareness of an organization, rather than encouraging someone to take some action. This is like burning cash. Think about what action someone would most realistically take after absorbing your message. Would she most likely go to a website, send a text, pick up the phone, or find you on Twitter? Once you know which medium the person is most likely to use, then you can develop a call-to-action that aligns with it.
  5. How will you keep him engaged?
    Rarely do companies develop marketing campaigns that create long-term engagement. However, those that do receive dividends over and over again, all from that initial investment. Therefore, the question great marketers want to answer is: What are realistic ways to engage him in the long run? This will be the difference between developing a one-time customer and a long-term fan.

Honestly, how many times have you actually asked these questions in the marketing situation room/meeting? When was the last time?